PREVIEW: Rockets at Spurs- March 4

Dec 19, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones (33) shoots the ball during the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Spurs- March 4

In a battle of two of the NBA’s three worst teams, the Rockets will try to avoid a 12th straight loss when they visit the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night in the first of a home-and-home back-to-back. The Rockets enter the game with the NBA’s worst record, while the Spurs are owners of the league’s third-worst and have already beaten the Rockets twice this season.

Eye on the Spurs

Record: 16-47 (14th in Western Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 109.5 (28th)

Defensive rating (rank): 119.3 (30th)

The Spurs have won back-to-back games after losing 16 in a row and 21-of-22, but leading scorer Keldon Johnson is doubtful to play due to a sprained left foot, while Devin Vassell has already been ruled out due to left knee injury maintenance. Doug McDermott will also miss the game because of a thumb injury, while Malachi Branham is listed as questionable with a back contusion. The Spurs are going to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight year for the first time in franchise history and appear to be headed to a 50-loss season for the first time since 1997, though they are 2-0 against the Rockets this season.

Matchup to watch: Rockets transition defense vs. Tre Jones

The Spurs play at the NBA’s sixth highest pace, but they play faster when Jones is on the floor, and while they don’t posses a devastating fast break attack, this is the Rockets transition defense we’re talking about. San Antonio averages 13.8 fast break points per game, which is 16th in the NBA. The Rockets allow a league-high 17.4 fast break points per game, and that number has increased to 23.5 in two games against San Antonio, including a 26-point game the last time they faced the Spurs.

Jones, who returned to the floor Thursday against the Pacers after missing the previous five games with a foot injury, is averaging 12 points and 6 assists this season while playing 29 minutes. He’s very fast and always looking to push the pace, something the Rockets have struggled with stopping all season long.

What I’m watching for

Kevin Porter Jr. looked rusty on Wednesday, as one would expect after missing 20 games. He scored 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes against the Grizzlies in his first game since Jan. 11, so I’m interested to see how he performs in his second game back. The Rockets practiced on Friday, which should help him find his rhythm, especially with his teammates. I’m also interested to see how Stephen Silas hands out minutes in the backcourt moving forward. TyTy Washington found his way into the Rockets rotation while Porter was out, so will he be the Rockets’ backup point guard, or will it be Jae’Sean Tate?

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